Leaky gut syndrome is not an official diagnosis you will hear spoken in many, if any, med schools. It remains somewhat of a mystery to practicing physicians and other healthcare professions, although they are aware of leaky gut’s potentially detrimental effects on our health. Sufferers with stomach or digestive issues wonder, Do I have a leaky gut? Second item of concern: they want to know what it takes to fix a leaky gut.
The term “leaky gut” itself conjures up all kinds of images about what is going on inside our bodies, and none of those are good, and yet they probably depict what is really happening. Leaky gut syndrome is layman’s terms for what has been described in medical terms as “hyperpermeable intestines.” It is a condition in which our intestinal lining has become more porous, allowing undigested food molecules as well as yeast, toxins and other forms of waste to seep out into our bloodstream before they have been properly broken down.
Once these foreign bodies enter our bloodstream, that’s where the real trouble begins. Our immune system detects this seepage and immediately identifies these unwanted bodies as bad-guy intruders that need to be neutralized post-haste.
Easier said than done. The volume of this unwanted, unprocessed waste can overwhelm our defenses, resulting in these foreign bodies being absorbed into various tissues throughout the body, causing inflammation. “Now that your body is focused on fighting the large war, the little battles are starting to be ignored, like filtering out the blood . . . fighting bacteria, regulating the gut, etc., “says webmd.com. “This process flow can lead to . . . an array of autoimmune diseases such as chronic fatigue, (multiple sclerosis), (irritable bowel syndrome), ulcerative colitis and fibromyalgia.”
Common Symptoms of Leaky Gut Include:
- Chronic diarrhea/constipation
- Skin rashes
- Brain fog/memory loss
- Excessive fatigue
- Food sensitivities
- Seasonal allergies
- Hormonal imbalances
One thing to keep in mind: the food you are eating might not be the end-game culprit with leaky gut. But any food not fully digested that prematurely escapes into the bloodstream can kick start the immune system, and again, you have a problem. On the other hand, if you have leaky gut—and it will take some work on the part of your physician to get it properly diagnosed—your diet could still be a contributing factor. Here are some possible causes of leaky gut, as listed by webmd.com and mindbodygreen.com:
- A diet that includes more than its fair share of refined sugars, processed foods, preservatives, refined flours and flavorings. There might be a whole bunch of toxic chemicals in these.
- Chronic stress, which can lead to a suppressed immune system.
- Inflammation, possibly the result of low amounts of stomach acid, infection, environmental toxins, etc.
- Medications. Some prescriptions and even OTC pain relievers such as Aspirin can irritate the intestinal lining and reduce the mucosal levels essential to protecting the intestinal lining.
- Lack of zinc, which helps maintain a strong intestinal lining.
- Gluten is considered a leading cause.
- Intestinal parasites.
Medical science still has not been able to develop specific therapies to heal or even thoroughly treat leaky gut, but enough studies have been done to at least identify a number of do’s and don’ts for us to follow:
- Diet restrictions (see Item No. 1 in the above list of possible causes).
- Nutritional supplements. They are an important line of defense. Among those identified by health experts as potentially effective are multi-vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, digestive enzymes, Omega-3 fish oils, L-glutamine, DGL licorice root, collagen powder and anti-fungals.
- Probiotics. There are different strains of probiotics, making it a subject worthy of conversation with your doctor.